As with so many exotic pets, young tarantulas tend to be more difficult to care for than adults. They tend to be more sensitive to the wrong conditions, require considerably smaller food items which can be difficult to handle and moult more regularly (with each one of these moults being a potential risk to the spider).
On the flip-side, adult tarantulas can be expensive and starting off with a baby tarantula – or spiderling – can be both fun and rewarding as you watch your tarantula grow in size. Many also change colour as they develop and so this too can be fun. Lastly, for the tarantula breeder, regular new specimens will be required and so once again baby tarantulas will be needed.
All this means that a lot of tarantula keepers buy spiderlings and that if you are going to be successful with them, you need to make sure you are caring for them correctly.
Housing Terrestrial Tarantula Spiderlings
With the exception of a tiny minority of species, most tarantulas need to be housed alone or there is a serious risk of them attacking and killing one another. Because of this each spiderling you purchase will need to be housed separately so if you choose a number of specimens be aware of this housing requirement.
The size of the housing suitable for a tarantula really depends on it’s size and I tend to use four different sized containers which will see all but the largest tarantulas through to adulthood.
Wherever possible I use clear containers so I can keep an eye on all my spiderlings. Plastic works best as it is strong and easy to clean, though adult tarantulas are typically housed in purpose-built glass aquariums.
It is important that tarantulas have some holes in their cage to allow air movement without which tarantulas can die. Equally, be aware of how small a spiderling can be so take care not to put them in a cage with holes that the spiderling can escape from.
For hatchling spiderlings which may be only a centimetre or so across, I use small clear-plastic pots with tight-fitting lids of 2 inches or so in height and width.
These tubs are small and really only suitable for the first few months of a tarantulas life so as soon as they outgrow that size, I move them up into old cricket tubs. These clear plastic tubs are cheap to buy (if you don’t have ny left over from buying livefood) and offer a reasonable amount of space to spiderlings.
By the time the baby tarantula is getting to a legspam of couple of inches, I move them up again into a larger container such as a plastic shoebox or hatchling snake box of around 30cm long by 20cm wide by 10 cm high.
For smaller species, these containers can actually serve as a permanent home though personally when the tarantulas reach 4 inches in legspan or so I like to move them up into their final home. This is normally a glass tank of around 30cm by 30cm providing plenty of room for the mature spider.
Irrespective of the size of container used, I line them with a mixture of peat-free compost and vermiculite to provide not only a substrate to burrow into if desired but also to help to keep up the humidity without the substrate having running water on it.
Heating And Humidity For Hatchling Tarantulas
Coming from the warmer areas of the world, heating and humidity are essential environmental elements when it comes to a healthy tarantula and this is just as important for hatchlings as it is for fully-grown tarantulas.
On the other hand, heating tiny spiderling containers has the potential to be somewhat problemtic both due to the small size of the containers and also the way in which many tarantula keepers end up with quite a selection of baby spiders and consequently tubs to heat.
The process which I have found most successful is to actually buy a fish tank or tarantula tank and then heat this by taping a heat pad to the back of it. The spiderling pots are then placed into this warm environment without having to be individually heated.
I check on my spiderlings several times a week, adding a little water if necessary to keep up the humidity and removing any uneaten food or moulted skins. After their checks, I then place the tubs back into the tank is a different arrangement so that each spiderling has some time closer to the heater over the course of a few weeks.
Feeding Tarantula Spiderlings
Tarantulas of course normally require live insects to feed on with the standard fare being adult locusts and crickets for fully-grown tarantulas though youngsters require considerably smaller prey items. Depending on the species, prey items up to around half the tarantulas’ body length are ideal.
For real youngsters, pinhead crickets or fruitflies are ideal foods and can be bought from most livefood suppliers. Wingless fruitflies are available from some suppliers which makes life much easier when it comes to handling these insects.
A further tip is to invest in a “pooter” which will enable you to suck up baby crickets and fruit flies into a container, from where they can be tipped into your spiderling pots.
The amount of food really depends on the species being kept with being far more hungry than others. Typically to help me in this I number each pot, and keep records of how much food was given, if any was uneaten, when the spiderling moults and so on. In this way I can ensure I don’t try to feed spiderlings that have just moulted, and I also ensure I am feeding them the right amount. If there is always food left over, then feed less. If the food is always gone, try feeding a little more.
As a general rule fo thumb to apply before you start your records, I try to feed 2-3 fruitflies or pinhead crickets per spiderling, and feed them once to twice a week. After a few weeks your records will indicate what changes you will need to make to your feeding regime.
As the spiders grow, as can their food with spiderlings that have moved up into the cricket tub containers often taking adult brown crickets or half-sized locusts.